Has it been a while since you received the Sacrament of Reconciliation? How many of you receive the Sacrament on a regular basis? Do you think you don't really need to go? Are you too embarrassed to go? Do you not know or not remember what to do?
I have a story to tell you. Really it is more of a confession to make to all of you who read this blog - right before Christmas (2012) was the first time I ever received the Sacrament of Reconciliation. How can that be? Well, I was not born Catholic, and I was not married in the Church. I was not even baptized until my son was a year old and had himself been baptized. I always believed in God and wanted to belong to a church, but never felt like I had really connected at any of the Christian churches that we had attended off and on during my childhood. The only Church that ever felt "right" was the few times that I went with my childhood friend to Mass after spending the night at her house. The funny thing was it was all in Spanish, and I did not speak Spanish and did not understand much anything but Amen.
After I got married and we got pregnant, I started attending the Catholic Church down the street, because I did not want my child to feel like I did. The Catholic Church felt comfortable and I felt like I was meant to be there. I went through RCIA 21 years ago (yes, 21 years ago and just made my first confession a little over a month ago - a long time coming) was baptized, made 1st Communion and Confirmation all at an Easter Vigil. (My husband was a cradle Catholic who fell away from the Church and he said that I knew more about the Catholic Church than he did after RCIA, and unfortunately I did not know all that much.)
When going through the RCIA program in a case like mine, your baptism washes away all your previous sins. So technically I was good to go. We were told not to wait too long to go confession. But what is too long? I did not think I had done anything that needed to be confessed, so I did not go. I was really insecure and also embarrassed and afraid to go to confession. Then I felt maybe I had waited too long, and what would the priest think of me.....and I kept putting it off. We got pregnant again, then we moved to where we live now, and eventually I drifted away from the Church for several years (I still had questions that had not been addressed during my RCIA, and while I liked Mass, I was more of a "Cafeteria Catholic", even though I taught Faith Formation and both boys made it as far as 1st Communion).
About the same time I started coming back, I started listening to Immaculate Heart Radio, and the Catholic Answers show that is on (where I live) from 3 - 5pm M-F. I don't catch the whole show, but because of the parts I did hear, many of the questions that I had before were answered and I started learning more about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I learned that even though we confess our sins (in silence) at the beginning of Mass we should still go to Confession once in a while, especially when we have sinned, and I knew that I needed to finally go.
It took a while to get my courage up and right before Christmas, my parish was doing weekday evening Reconciliations so I went. I sat in the Church until almost everyone else had taken their turn and I finally went into the Confessional. I explained my situation to the priest, and he was fantastic. He was not condescending or judgemental, just happy that I had come. He explained how the Sacrament is given, made me feel extremely comfortable, heard my confession, and absloved me of my sins. When he raised his hand and absloved me of all my sins, my whole body....tingled. I felt relieved, happy, and knew that I had received God's forgiveness and grace. It was the best thing I had ever done.
The USCCB has an excellent "bulletin insert" on the Sacrament. I found the following prayer there. If you have not received the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a while, go and receive the gift of God's forgiveness and grace. You will be amazed at how much better you feel and how much easier it is accept God's love and forgiveness.
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong
and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance,
to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ
suffered and died for us.
In his name, my God, have mercy.
(Rite of Penance, no. 45)